CAPTIVA, Fla.- Is it coincidence or is it fate? A Minnesota woman holds Captiva Island in a special place in her heart. It's the place where she said goodbye to her daughter three years ago.
Deborah Tilson's daughter, Kristine Larson, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2007. In an unbelievable twist, Tilson won a contest that brought her back to Captiva and her daughter.
"Mom! Me! Florida!"
Those were the words printed on the pages of Deborah Tilson's daughters notebook, three months after she last laid eyes on her daughter.
"When I found it, it was wet, I had to put it on a cookie sheet and bake it to dry it out," said Tilson.
In those scriblings, Tilson learned about Captiva, a Southwest Florida island,h er daughter was dreaming of one day taking her too. But why Kristine chose Captiva will forever remain a mystery.
"I'm never going to know why, other than it was an island and it was something she wanted to do," said Tilson.
But Kristine's dream would never come true, she lost her life at the hands of her ex-boyfriend in 2007.
"I just kept thinking she will come back, they're wrong, maybe she's in witness protection, I really lived in denial for quite a while."
Zachary Matthews strangled Kristine and left her body in a burning car, when she went to go pick up their two-year-old son.
But in 2010, three years after Kristine's death, the words in that notebook still burned in Deborah's mind. She flew to florida, and set her daughter free on Captiva.
Out of this nightmare, her daughters dream would come true. In January, Deborah randomly entered a contest; She was one of 12,000 to do so and she won!
"I was like yeah they picked the farthest person away, because they know I won't be able to fly there every year, you are always looking for some kind of a loop hole,"said Tilson.
So for the next 25 years, Deborah and Kristine's now seven-year old son, will get to go on a dream vacation, to the one place she said goodbye to her daughter on Captiva at the Tween Waters Inn.
"It's hard, it's very hard, but knowing that she is at peace and in a place that she loved, makes it a lot easier, and I got the best gift any girl could give her mother," said Tilson
But in the trips to come there will only be a set of foot prints missing in the sand, outside of the Tween Waters.
"You can't lay odds on something like that. Me, winning this 25 year vacation of a lifetime to a place she loved so well, you have to naïve to think higher powers or your loved ones can't orchestrate powers to be."
Tilson's trip includes a three night stay at Tween Waters Inn, once a year. Tilson has now dedicated her life to raising awareness for domestic violence. Matthews is serving a life sentence for Larson's murder.